Batman: Gotham County Line

By Steve Niles & Scott Hampton, with Jose Villarrubia (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-0905-6 (TPB)

Many superheroes have a universal genre plasticity and can fit seamlessly into almost any kind of story. Even so, it’s almost no stretch at all to see DC’s Dark Knight tackling marauding monsters and dire demonic disaster, such as in this lost gem, long overdue for a new edition.

Released in 2006 and collecting a 3-issue miniseries (October-December 2005) by written by Steve Niles (30 Days of Night; Simon Dark; Criminal Macabre) with art by Scott Hampton (Silverheels; Batman: Night Cries; Simon Dark) and colourist Jose Villarrubia, the sinister suspense opens in ‘The Obvious Kill’ as yet another Batman-Joker clash throws up an aggravating mind-worm for the Dark Knight: is there a continuance of spirit and personality after death?

Suddenly obsessed with the notion, the manhunter’s subsequent researches are interrupted by a strange series of robbery/murders in the notionally peaceful, sleepy suburbs of the big, bad city. Reluctantly investigating, Batman overturns the police findings and discovers a serial killer at work. In the process of stopping the slaughter, Detective Radmuller of the Gotham County Sheriff’s Department is killed. He won’t be the last…

After closing the case, Batman returns to the city, unaware that the officer has subsequently risen from the dead. With unalloyed horror Batman realises that this case only really kicked into high gear after the death of the perpetrator. …

With zombies prowling the city and county – and even faithful manservant Alfred exhibiting symptoms – a nightmare-wracked but still ardently rationalistic Batman is forced to face the incredible facts of supernatural incursion by the ghost of Boston Brand – murdered aerialist and questing spirit Deadman – who accompanies him on ‘Death’s Highway’ in search of a solution to the plague of walking dead…

With life itself in retreat, Deadman, mystic guardian Phantom Stranger and recently deceased sidekick Jason (Robin) Todd hold back the hordes of unlife, allowing Batman to divine the root cause of the necromantic disaster and set the balance right again on the ‘Night of the Living Death’.

Batman is one of the few heroic icons who has always been equally at home with super-science and the supernatural and the Dark Knight’s arena is here extended to beyond the veil of tears and deep into nightmare territory.

Rife with zombies, ritual killers, early life revelations and doom-drenched guest-stars, this still manages to be a crime thriller and a detective mystery Bat-fans will enjoy and cross-over readers – especially horror aficionados – can revel in.
© 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.